Although it’s popular to accuse couples of setting themselves up for disaster by expecting too much from marriage, for many of us, the problem is exactly the opposite: We don’t set our sights high enough. In keeping our expectations low, we may hope to avoid disappointment and loss. However, this strategy contains some serious dangers. Limited expectations generate a modest vision of what is possible, and the single greatest factor in determining the outcome of any situation is our belief in regard to what it is ‘reasonable’ to expect. The more we believe is possible for us, the higher we are likely to set our goals. The level at which we establish our goals generally has much less to do with what we are actually capable of achieving than what we believe is attainable or realistic.
The Power of Expectation
Prior to Roger Banister’s breaking of the four-minute mile in 1954, it was deemed impossible for a human being to achieve that feat. Almost immediately after his accomplishment, other runners joined the sub-four-minute mile club. Within a decade, several hundred runners had done what ten years prior, had been seen as impossible. Such is the power of expectations.
When Linda and I got married in 1972, I deliberately set my sights low. All the better to avoid the disappointment that I was sure I would experience if I hoped for anything more than a comfortable arrangement in which we got along reasonably well and didn’t fight too much. Talk about low expectations!